In today’s share culture, we spend much of our time creating unfavorable images, slogans, and memes. We go out of our way to bring down anyone we can who would be considered a leader for any group of people. We are either showing an “amazing” video or something sentimental that an individual crafted for a reaction on YouTube – OR – we are sharing some sort of graphic that has a saying that someone is supposed to Like if they agree. Most of the times, these sayings are related to God loving you if you click a button or that you agree with a political platitude. As someone who spends far too much time reading, listening to, and watching politics, it is the second one that I will write about today. I will focus on when you click “Like” on something that states something unfavorable.
How Does He Keep Up With The News?
Congress has never been and never will be popular with the mass public. The idea of having a political class is unfavorable and appears to be the most anti-democratic idea you can have. But when our Founding Fathers created our system, they did not trust the masses and designed Congress to be representative of the country as a whole with many differing views based on where people lived. In fact, majority rule was a frightening concept, especially if they majority harmed the liberty of other Americans.
Majority rules and factions were the focus on Federalist #10, written by James Madison. “By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.”
He had two methods to cure this injustice:
- Remove its causes.
- Control its affect.
However, Madison states that both of these are impossible if we have liberty and differing opinions have to be found. In something that could be similar to a Randian thought, Madison wrote that the focus of Government is to protect liberty and differing opinions because “[a]s long as the connection subsists between his reason and his self-love, his opinions and his passions will have a reciprocal influence on each other; and the former will be objects to which the latter will attach themselves.” In other words, people will act and reason based on their own self interest. However, when those people act outside of our self interest, they become unfavorable.
Think about it this way. Why do current college students want free college? Why do parents of small children want free college? Why do people who work for colleges want free college? There are mainly objectively good reasons but there are also self interests: because the costs will be spread across the spectrum for their debts, their children’s education, and their salaries.
Why do banks want less regulation? Why do coal miners want to keep coal power plants open? Why do people fear immigrants? There are simple reasons of self-interest tied to all of those thoughts. But the role of Congress is to make sure that both sides of the issue can be and will be thought through. However, the goal then of representatives was not political party or faction but it was “that a strong, united republic would be better able to guard against those dangers than would smaller republics—for instance, the individual states.”
However, this is no longer the case as we are not a community of diverse opinions.
The Unfavorable Politician
We have two types of politicians at this point (disregarding Trump for the time being). We have ideologues. Typically, these are people who do not fear re-election because they will either run unopposed or they will win by ten points if they keep their base happy. In 2014, Congress’ approval rating was around 10%. You would think that this would mean that only 10% should keep their jobs. But in reality, 5% loss their jobs. This does not surprise me in the least as we differ in our minds “Our Congressperson” and “that Congressperson”.
Take for example two people who have run for President this year: Senators Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz. Both have staged filibusters on important issues to their bases and most likely to them. However, they can take hard stands easily because they don’t have to worry about the other party in their respective state. Vermont and Texas are solid states. For most of the country, most representative districts (local, state, federal) are solid for one party or the other. The politicians have drawn the lines that way and the people ignore these changes that happen on the state level.
In addition, they are on opposite ends of the spectrum and rarely voted the same. According to the Washington Post, they voted the same 25% of the time. Compare that with Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton who voted the same almost 92% of the time. Now, let’s imagine a world where Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz, who both would win re-election in their respective states handily, swapped states. We can all agree they would not get elected. Without this competition, there is no faction or need to a minority voice. That voice is silenced with absolutely no fear of retribution. As shocking as this sounds, there are people in Vermont who don’t like Bernie Sanders and there are people in Texas who don’t like Ted Cruz. But since they cannot find a voice to speak for them in their own state anymore, they reach elsewhere. For example, over $138 billion dollars was raised in gubernatorial elections from out-of-state donors (an almost 20% increase).
Instead, what would it take for someone to beat Bernie Sanders or Ted Cruz in their respective states? A primary challenge. This is a tactic we saw often in the last sets of mid-term elections. Sen. Dick Lugar, Sen. Joe Lieberman, Rep. Eric Cantor – all strong political figures who were beaten by their bases. All three unfavorable with their bases. As long as an ideologue
The second type is the vulnerable politicians. These would be people who may live in a “purple” state or district. These would also be people who may want to stay towards the middle of the political spectrum to reach a wider audience. In other words, these people are malleable. These people are born to be unfavorable.
The Unlikable Moderate
Twenty years ago, the Democratic Party was coming back from a troubling disaster of an election in 1994, where Republicans won almost every seat in the South that the Democratic Party had held for generations. Voters began to vote for their ideological preferences instead of the party they were registered to. And the Democratic Party moved to the center to win re-election with President Bill Clinton. However, by the year 2000, liberal Americans were beginning to awaken to the thought they the “L” word was just as bad as all the other words that are described by a single letter. In each election since 2000, there has been a “liberal” candidate who was supposed to stand out and grab those voters. We had Howard Dean in 2004 and we had Barack Obama in 2008 and we had Bernie Sanders in 2012. Dean didn’t win, Obama was not that liberal, and Bernie Sanders will come away with a large number of voters and much closer to the nomination than Dean ever imaged. I will later speculate on the difference between Dean and Sanders but not today.
What Bernie Sanders has shown is that Democrats have learned what Republicans learned in 2010. It is better to be a pure liberal than a Democrat. Democrats learned some of this in 2010 by chasing away the Sen. Ben Nelsons of the party and losing enough Senate seats to lose their super majority. But Republicans did a far better job of creating the term RINO (Republican in Name Only) and ferreting out those who stood in their way. If you talked to President Obama or mentioned anything that a Democrat may like, you got a primary challenge. The seat was still safe for a Republican to win, but they were just not that into you anymore. I posit that this decent into ideological purity is what brought the Republican Party to Donald Trump, who is most likely not the conservative that the tea party claims to have wanted, but he stands tough on the three issues that matter to them: immigration, trade, and terrorism.
What are those three issues for Democrats? What will become the talking points that liberals decide define who is with them and who is against them? How many Democrats will claim a politician is unfavorable to them based on one of these issues?
The Falseness of Unfavorable Ratings
Today, we like to disagree and state that we hate the establishment. Every establishment is unfavorable today. No one likes anything with power – unless it is celebrity, but even then, the nastiest memes I see are going after celebrity culture.
What I ask you to do is play a little game. Imagine a politician that you can create. What does that person stand for? Is it particular issues? Is it general concepts? How would you determine if this imaginary politician was a success or a failure?
Next, look back at political figures that you may admire. Write down what they did that you liked. Write down things that you disagreed with. For example, my political hero for a long time has been Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who surprisingly was unfavorable with groups of people when he was President. He did a lot of great things that helped our country and, in retrospect, the world. But take a look at some Chicago Tribune cartoons and see that though he is revered today, he wasn’t during his Presidency.
He did a lot of things today that make anything Hillary Clinton or even Donald Trump has done look indefensible. He put Japanese Americans in internment camps during World War II, he tried to pack the Supreme Court with additional justices to get all of his agenda through, and he had affairs with several women from all accounts.
However, as we become more ideologically separated, each of these events would become a bigger scandal that will rattle the bones.
Each of the political figures that you admire (and most likely, the non-political figures) have faults. They are not 100% pure. Even Bernie Sanders or Ted Cruz will let you down if you believe in the as angels.
Politicians, not Heroes
Politics is dirty. In the recent Supreme Court oral arguments regarding McDonnell v. US, Justice Stephen Breyer and Justice Anthony Kennedy appeared very concerned that corruption charges that would put the former Virginia Governor in prison were too vague and that basically, it would make any act of a politician subject to corruption. We see what we want to see from our politicians and we see corruption all around because things seem off. But they are not off because of watches changing hands or even political donations because as you can see from the Republican primary, all the Super PACs in the world cannot beat a man who has a majority of primary voters on his side. Remember, no one votes in the primary.”
However, we have decided that we need to hold our Presidential candidates to a spotless record. This first came to the Supreme Court, where potential candidates need to have no opinions on anything that can be tied to a controversy. We need to supposedly have pleasure in voting for an individual to represent us. But politics is not entertainment. Politics is not about heroes. Again, think back to all of our founding fathers. If the musical Hamilton should show people anything, it is that there is a story to be told and it matters who tells that story. Jefferson, Washington, Hamilton, Burr – all of them had reasons to do what they did. Some was for power, some for money, some for glory – and luckily, some of it was for liberty and freedom.
But that liberty and freedom has come at a cost as most Americans do not participate in the political system. Although voter turnout is up from 2012, it still has averaged less than 30% of eligible voters in states holding primaries so far.” Instead, we have a growing political-sport class of people who horse-race elections, create Internet memes, sit on Twitter hashtagging the night away, and I know I’m one of those people. However, I’m trying not to horse race anymore. My goal is that people understand that politics is not about who is right and who is wrong. Politics is about making sure that any faction does not diminish the rights and privileges of another faction. If we see a group that is at risk, it is important for a group to coalesce and act to defeat the group that is diminishing life, liberty, and happiness. These factions will shift and change and will be wrong sometimes. Bad decisions will be made by leaders – just like we make bad decisions.
It doesn’t matter if someone was right or wrong in the past, what matters is if you believe they will look out for the factions that you believe are being harmed. This will be self-interest. This will be selfish. But this will also be unfavorable with many people. However, history writes the story and if good wins, good writes that story.